New BCCI chief has many firsts to his credit

By Shyam Pandharipande, IANS

Nagpur : Seen as a watershed event in the cricketing history of India, the nomination of Shashank Manohar as president-elect to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) also happens to be special for the man in more ways than one.

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The 29th president of the board is the first to be elected unopposed to the post and the first after the BCCI resolved to elect its president with the consent of the general body. He is also the first ‘president-elect’ of the body – he will take the reins next year – and the youngest so far.

The honour comes as a birthday gift both for Manohar, who turns 50 Saturday and for his wife Varsha, who celebrated her birthday Thursday amid happy tidings coming from the board’s Mumbai headquarters late in the evening – Manohar being the only one to file his nomination.

To the city of Nagpur, the honour has come for the third time – late barrister Sheshrao Wankhede and former union minister N.K.P. Salve were the two earlier BCCI presidents from the central Indian city.

The president of the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) and a trusted deputy of BCCI president Sharad Pawar, Manohar has been credited with constructing the country’s best state of the art cricket stadium near Nagpur that is nearing completion.

A player himself, Manohar represented Vidarbha in the under-22 C.K. Naidu trophy, earning accolades for his performance as an opening batsman. He also played for Nagpur University.

Elected as president of VCA — a post his father V.R. Manohar held earlier — for the first time in 1997, Manohar has risen to head India’s cash-ricj cricket board in a record time of 10 years.

Known for his no-nonsense approach, insistence on fitness and performance rather than seniority and advocacy of stringent conditions in team selection and payment contracts with players, the president-elect is also considered a valuable asset for the board because of his legal acumen.

A man who never carries a cell-phone, never parties and always travels for the board meetings at his own expense, Manohar is known as forthright and non-partisan.

Manohar’s appreciation of Dhoni and his victorious team of the Twenty20 World Championships overflowed during his chat with reporters here soon after he arrived from Mumbai Friday evening.

“They have done a great job when given a chance and it has set at rest all doubts about our bench strength,” Manohar said.

Asserting that the Twenty20 format has enabled the Indian cricket establishment to find young talent, the president-elect said he was confident the BCCI would be able to select a good, balanced team for the seven-match series against Australia beginning Saturday. “I hope we’ll win the upcoming series too”, he said.

Manohar was more circumspect about his own two-year tenure. He said he would need some time to get a hang of the administrative work after which he would try to give his best.

“Every job has its own challenges; I should say I shall face them all right,” he hoped. He also said BCCI never saw the International Cricket League (ICL) sponsored by Subhash Chandra of the Zee group as a threat.

Evidently happy over his achievement and uncharacteristically patient with the jostling crowds of friends and admirers at the airport and at home, Manohar for once didn’t seem to mind the bursting of crackers by them.